NOSTALGIA: A significant day for the railway community at Oxenholme

The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author

Fifty two years ago Oxenholme Engine Shed – or Locomotive Depot to give it its official title – closed. It was a very minor event in the great scheme of things, but very significant for the small railway community for whom the shed was a major source of employment for over 100 years.

In the days of steam locomotion engine sheds of various sizes existed in large numbers across the country. Steam engines, though glamorous and characterful, were notoriously difficult to maintain, and the railway industry was extremely labour intensive.

Oxenholme was a small shed of only four roads with a nearby turntable and water and coaling plants, dwarfed by the larger sheds which provided giant locomotives to pull the major inter city expresses. Nonetheless it employed 120 men in its heyday and could stable up to 13 locomotives, and as late as 1962 still employed 50 staff and 12 engines.

oxenholme shed taken early in 1962 wg

Oxenholme Shed taken early in 1962

Its primary purpose was as a banking depot to assist the climb up Grayrigg bank of heavy goods and passenger trains (Shap summit was covered by the shed at Tebay). A driver requiring assistance would indicate on arrival at Oxenholme and the ‘banker’ would dutifully push the giant train as far as Grayrigg and return light engine. Bank engines were available 24 hours every day and duty shifts would begin at 06.00. 14.00 and 22.00. Shed personnel would work shifts on a three weekly basis. As well as the bank duties, local trains to Windermere, Morecambe and Penrith were operated from Oxenholme depot, making it a very busy place indeed. Staff consisted of a Shed Master and his deputy, drivers, passed firemen, firemen and cleaners; at one time there were knockers up, who walked through the village tapping on upstairs windows with a large pole to wake up the early shift.

The village itself was largely a creation of the railway, and the railway company provided tied cottages for its workers initially at the Station Cottages, but later at Helmside, Natland Terrace and Hill Place. The Bolefoot estate, built in 1921 was, initially, occupied almost exclusively by railway men and their families, who ensured a lively spirit of community flourished at all times.

By 1962 dieselisation of British Railways was well advanced and the days of small banking sheds such as Oxenholme were coming to an end. Steam still had a few years to run, and personnel were offered transfers to other depots. A small number of older staff were maintained until the end of steam locomotion in 1968. The shed was demolished in 1965 and with its extinction went a way of life for railway families which had endured for several generations and provided lifelong employment and security for railway men and their families.

Westmorland Gazette, Saturday 22 November 2014


Oxenholme railway station to get new revamp

Virgin Trains are investing in Oxenholme Railway Station

The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author

OXENHOLME railway station is to benefit from thousands of pounds of improvements in the New Year.

Tim Farron MP says the station will be developed to see a new cafe on platform 1 of the southbound-side. Mr Farron said he met with directors from Virgin and the general manager of the West Coast Main Line and pressed the case for investment. The cafe provider has not yet been announced, but Mr Farron said it will be based in the old oil stores – described as an under-utilised Victorian room. Other features will include better provision for cyclists and improved signage.

Train operators Virgin have confirmed the new improvements. They also include fitting and installing new automatic doors in the booking hall and waiting room on platform one. The existing ticket machine and replaced with two new ‘Fast Ticket’ machines. Waiting customers will also benefit from new Wifi zones. A new customer information screen will go in the subway for customers arriving from the Windermere branch line. There will also be heating in the booking hall for customers waiting and ‘more visible’ customer service points.

There are hopes the toilets and waiting rooms will also be ‘refreshed’ and new hand rails for the subway. There have also been calls for the canopy on platforms two and three to be extended to help passengers avoid the rain and for more information stands for local tourist attractions.

Mr Farron said he is also pressing the tourism minister and Treasury to devolve more cash to Cumbria via Visit Britain to help promote the area. It came after Mr Farron said he discovered that Marketing Manchester receives £20 million a year. “Manchester is a great place,” said Mr Farron, “but after London, we are England’s second ‘attack’ brand,” he said. “Visit Scotland get £60 million and Cumbria gets around £900,000. We get next to no funding and I’d like to see a more level playing field.” Of Cumbria County Council’s recent proposal to withdraw the £89,500 annual funding to Cumbria Tourism, Mr Farron said: “I’m very sympathetic to the council’s plight with funding but with the county council being one of the founding partners of Cumbria Tourism, I think it’s only right they have some financial involvement in it.”

Westmorland Gazette, Thursday 20 November 2014


Dog attack on pub landlady sees man in court

The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author

A DOG owner whose out-of-control Staffordshire bull terrier caused “life changing” injuries to a pub landlady has avoided jail.

Gary Edward Moss, 43, of. Bleaswood Road, Oxenholme, was sentenced to a curfew and ordered to pay almost £2,000 when he appeared at Carlisle Crown Court yesterday.

Michelle Hipwell, who runs the Station Inn at Oxenholme, was mauled by one of Moss’s two terriers in an attack that left her dog bleeding and her in need to hospital treatment.

Brendan Burke, prosecuting, said the landlady spent almost a week at the Royal Preston Hospital and started recovery after five weeks following the attack on The Helm at 7.05am on August 8. The court heard Mrs Hipwell had been walking her two dogs on the lead when Moss’s white Staffordshire bull terrier came at her and bit one if her dogs on the ear, followed by the defendant’s black Staffordshire bull terrier Jack which bit and ripped at the fur of her other dog. “The complainant had to prise the white dog’s jaws open from her dog’s neck and then it but her hand,” said Mr Burke. In a victim statement Mrs Hipwell said she is now nervous about going out with her dog, has been unable to work and has had to rely on family members to carry out ever day tasks.

In mitigation David Birrell said Moss was a man of good character and had owned dogs for 20 years. The defendant, who pleaded guilty to being the owner of a dog dangerously out of control and being owner of a dangerously out of control dog which caused injury, had his white dog Rumble put down and said he now keeps a muzzle on his other dog at all times.

Judge Peter Hughes QC said: “This incident demonstrates just how careful dog owners have to be when they take their dogs out and particularly when they let them off their leads in places where other people are likely to be walking their dogs. The obligations on a a dog walker walking two dogs are onerous because it’s naturally an instinct for dogs to hunt in a pack and it’s almost impossible to anticipate an incident like this with absolutely horrific consequences. The injuries sustained by Mrs Hipwell really are quite awful. She could easily have lost the use of her hand.”

Moss was ordered to pay £1,500 compensation to Mrs Hipwell and £340 to cover the cost of vets bills. “It is apparent from these photographs that this figure I’m ordering is the very minimum and she’s probably entitled to significantly more,” added judge Hughes. Moss was also handed a community order with one condition of a 12 week curfew from 8pm-6am.

Westmorland Gazette, Friday 14 November 2014

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